Monday, January 11, 2010

MLS Superdraft 2010: What will the Champs do?

There alot of perks that come with winning the MLS Cup: there’s that trophy, an invite to CCC play, and some bragging rights.  But picking #16 isn’t one of them.  So what is RSL likely to do?

Well, as Garth told KIR recently – in that position you simply need to look for the best potential talent.  Striker, central defender, and 3rd keeper are some of the “needs” for a team that has a solid core of players in the fold.  But at 16, you look at what’s available and take the best talent.  You aren’t looking for a player that can help you in 2010, but 2, 3, or 4 years down the road. 

With this in mind, RSL may envision midfield being a higher priority need.  After all in 2013 it’s not likely that Mathis and Williams will still be in the league, and Morales will be edging towards mid-30’s.  But with the movement of players in and out of the league it’s impossible to predict what your lineup will look like 3 years out.  So forget about picking for position.

Because there are few immediate needs, look for RSL to go for upside.  Young players, players from smaller schools, and “projects” will likely be favored over solid, but not exceptional seniors.

Also, expect RSL to have a bias for “versatile” players, although sometimes in the draft that is synonymous with “not good at any particular position.”

With this in mind, it’s impossible to know what players will be up for consideration.  Tomorrow’s DAY 2 of the Combine will move certain players down in many people’s eyes, and move other players up.  Here are a few players who are almost certain to be picked before RSL’s turn:

  • Danny Mwanga, F, Oregon State: done deal – headed to Philly
  • Ike Opara, D, Wake Forest: defensive standout, likely # 2 pick
  • Corben Bone, F, Wake Forest: will be top 10
  • Teal Bunbury, F, Akron: speedster also a sure fire top 10 pick
  • Toni Tchani, M, Virginia: d-mid that many think could one day emulate Shalrie Joseph
  • Andre Akpan, F, Harvard: great touch, and passing ability: can play back to the goal
  • Dilly Duka, M, Rutgers: Talented, but with question marks, former NYRB academy player
  • Zach Lloyd, D/M, UNC: versatile player, and “MLS ready”
  • Amobi Okugo, M, UCLA: d-mid from the Sam Cronin mold, lots of upside

Now if any of the players above are available at #16, it would be a surprise.  Most likely the team would snatch them up. 

So who is likely to be available, and up for consideration in that spot?  Well, this is a tricky answer.  There is the standard list (below).  These are the guys that everyone assume are first rounders/early second rounders.  However, there are likely some “unknowns” that will find their way into the mix.  Some of these, like one of yesterdays standouts at the Combine, Andrew Hoaxie, will begin to generate a buzz over the next several days.  Other players are already on the radar of certain teams, but they are more than happy to keep quiet about them.  For now, though, here is the more traditional list of players expected to go in that range.

  • Andrew Wiedeman, F, Cal
  • Blair Gavin, M, Akron
  • Toni Stahl, M, UConn
  • Jack McInerney, F, U-17
  • Kwame Watson-Siriboe, D, UConn
  • Austin de Luz, M/F, Wake Forest
  • Ofori Sarkodie, D, Indiana
  • Kyle Nakazawa, M, UCLA
  • Zach Schilawski, F, Wake Forest
  • Mike Stephens, M, UCLA
  • Chris Schular, D, Creighton
  • Sean Johnson, GK, Central Florida

Now among this 12, several of them will likely have been taken (in addition to the 9 "sure things” above) by the time RSL picks. I would rule Sean Johnson out. Four of the names really standout to me as potential to be picked by RSL if available:

  • McInerney: A high-risk, high-reward pick.  Could become a great player, or turn out to be a bust.  Very skillful but has yet to put it all together.  Had a poor showing at U-17 WC.
  • Gavin: young, skilled midfielder with a lot of upside.
  • Schilawski: talented striker sat in the shadows of a couple other great attackers at Wake, but was able to shine this year.  Best yet to come?
  • Stephens: outplayed more highly regarded midfielders at DAY 1 of the Combine, very versatile, which would fit the bill.

My guess at the pick?  Who knows?  I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the above, but my guess is young, player with upside will be the key.